There is a certain segment of readers of this column who believe that it deals too much with caste. For the sake of those readers, I was hoping that my time away from
If we imagine life to be a board-game, then the claims that we make in this game are not mere talk. These claims are in fact strategies, or counters for us to get higher in the game, or retain the position that we have. Flashing the right card at the right time can win us a particular round of the game. Thus we often flash our upper-caste belongings when there is need, through the way we speak, the way we look, our names, etc. This country, as almost any honest person will acknowledge, works along brahmanical lines.
Very often in a game, we are left with counters that seem to have no value. In such a case, we would need to transform the counter into something of greater value. The board-game of life seems to provide such options in certain cases. It is for this reason that Goan Catholics from the upper castes very often flash their belonging to Brahmin or Kshatriya categories when forging their careers or trying to make an impression in the former British-India. What they do is to transcend the peculiarity of being Catholic Brahmin or Chardo and find equivalence by casting their identity along pan-Indian lines.
Trying to make sense of this puzzle, my mind flew back to a conversation I had had 2 years ago. Referring to Narana Coissoro, a significant Portuguese, a man of Goan descet; the lady I was in conversation with said “Ah Narana Coissoro! He’s a noble isn’t he? A Brahman from
Speaking with a Portuguese anthropologist who studies
Clearly then the counter of ‘brahmin’ that our friend keeps throwing about is not without some value even in
Having made sense of this situation, we can now begin to understand why the claims of expat Indians in non-metropolitan parts of the
An ancient coping mechanism when being in the realm of the unfamiliar is to domesticate it by comparing it to the familiar. The tables were turned on me when the unpleasantly familiar turned up rather innocuously in a
(Published in the Gomantak Times, October 7th 2009)